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Notebook: Mark Johnson Cheers on His Kids, Madison Capitols

By Greg Bates - Special to, 03/30/15, 3:45PM MDT


U.S. Olympian and Wisconsin women’s coach enjoys family time

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Mark Johnson watches a lot of hockey during the year.

Between coaching the University of Wisconsin women’s team and heading out on recruiting trips, hockey is a constant for Johnson.

However, he isn’t able to get to see his daughter, Megan, play too often.

With the Badgers season wrapped up, Johnson — who was a member of the famous 1980 “Miracle on Ice” U.S. Olympic hockey team — was able to drive the 140 miles from Madison to she Megan’s Madison Capitols 19U team compete in the Toyota-Hockey Girls Tier I National Championships.

The Capitols just happen to be coached by Johnson’s son, Patrick.

“You can come up here and recruit and then take that hat off for a couple games throughout the day and put your parent hat on and become a parent and watch fun things happen within that group,” said Mark, whose brother, Pete, coached the 16U Shattuck-St. Mary’s (Minn.) team to a national championship.

Patrick Johnson was thrilled his dad was able to come up and watch his team’s games.

“It’s special,” said Patrick, who played at Wisconsin. “My dad throughout the season wasn’t able to get to too many of our games when we were younger, so it’s fun now.”

Mark is a pretty hands-off guy when it comes to seeing one of his daughter’s games.

“When he watches me he’s definitely a dad,” said Megan, who will play college hockey at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. “When I ask him, he’ll give me advice.”

Mark’s oldest son, Doug, used to coach the Capitols’ 19U squad, but once he got married and had a child, he stepped away from the rink. That’s when Patrick carried on the Johnson family tradition of coaching.

“You get to follow in your dad’s footsteps a little bit coaching, and it’s great just seeing your sister out there having fun,” Patrick said. “Having a group of girls come together and make it this far is a pretty cool.”

Patrick has a great time coaching his sister, who is eight years younger.

“It’s a blast coaching your sibling,” Patrick said. “It’s another way to connect with her, which is a lot of fun.”

“I guess I’ve grown up with it,” Megan said. “I love it.”

Experienced Bunch from Fairfield

Perhaps no team at this year’s national championships had more experience on the ice than the Mid-Fairfield Stars’ (Connecticut) 19U squad.

According to coach Jake Mastel, about three-quarters of his 20 players had competed in nationals five or more years.

“The program has been around for eight or nine years, and we’ve chosen the right path with these girls and we’ve tried to build from the ground up,” Mastel said. “In that short amount of time, we’ve established one of the premier programs in the country.”

Sara McNamara and Katelyn Pantera have played together all the way up through the program and logged five trips to nationals in their career.

“It’s great to have the experience,” McNamara said. “Growing up and playing with everyone since I was like 14, it just helps that you know the play of everyone coming into a team like this. You come so close over the years.”

The group that has played with McNamara and Pantera won the Tier I 14U national title in 2011. It became almost expected after that to advance to nationals every season.

“We set the bar really high that year and we tried to work for it as we continued on,” Pantera said.

Does it ever get old making it nationals nearly every year?

“No, never,” McNamara said. “There’s always something new around the corner, new teams are always coming.”

“These two were the first ones up in the apparel room buying stuff, so it never gets old for these girls,” Mastel said. “Yeah, look at the smiles right there.”

The Stars unfortunately had a quick stop at nationals this season. The team didn’t advance out of the preliminary round with a 1-2 record. 

It was the last games in the program for Pantera, who will play next season at Amherst College, and McNamara, who will skate at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, N.H.

“It’s hard leaving the program and the team, but you know what, it was all worth it,” Pantera said. “We got where we needed to get to.”

Zarzecki Leads in Scoring

Chicago Mission’s Grace Zarzecki finished the tournament with 12 points to lead the 19Us in scoring. The forward scored nine goals in all and had a hat trick in her team’s 9-0 victory over the Dallas Stars in the preliminary round.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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